Needed: Centralized info on new learning
In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, academic life must still go on.
The Commission on Higher Education offers flexible learning, while the Department of Education boasts of its menu of options for teaching learners—online, television, radio, learning modules.
In spite of all these alternate platforms for students to gain access to education resources, questions remain. To what extent are these alternatives relayed and explained to the learners and their parents? What are the new internal processes that have evolved, and how clear were they presented?
For the past three months now, I have been a witness to many stress-laden remarks from parents and students. Various concerns boil down to a seemingly elusive situation—the need for a communication center where immediate information is provided, service is rendered, appeal is granted, questions are answered, and procedures are clearly explained, among others.
Given all the government regulations, schools can hardly catch up with the expectations and demands of students and parents. So how should a school behave in bridging what used to be and what is now the new normal, and yet still remain relevant and responsive?
Here are simple means.
Prepare a communication plan. Keep the internal stakeholders in the loop through email blasts to communicate plans and activities. To have a guiding principle for the mode of instructional delivery in the new normal would mean all actions for teaching and learning will lead a learning community to move toward a common direction. External stakeholders should be provided with clear infographics, FAQs, process flow algorithms, and advisories for them to be guided as well.
Empathize with those who raise questions, issues, and concerns. It is but normal for people to question new policies, but school leaders should be ready to listen to various perspectives. Social media apps that quantitize sentiments are helpful in reviewing and reformulating new policies, but still keep leaders focused on achieving set goals and educational objectives. A centralized information hub through the university’s social media should be put in place to provide updates on issues and concerns.
Respond promptly. Requests from both internal and external stakeholders may simultaneously present themselves, but schools must act immediately through negotiation teams, ad hoc committees, or a task force.
When concerns of students were collectively presented, the Rector of the University of Santo Tomas created the Task Force Veritas (Viable Emergency Response Initiatives for Thomasian Academics and Stakeholders) to explain the directions of the university and how it put into action the “no student and faculty left behind” rallying point. Through planning groups, schools can provide substantive feedback and proactively suggest solutions to issues at hand.
Support every member of the community in need. In dealing with issues and concerns, schools should maintain a positive and supportive tone in marching forward. The sudden shift to online learning means help is needed for those with internet connectivity issues, and they should be provided available means to continue their learning through administration and alumni support. Policies are to be maintained to keep the status quo for scholarships and custodianships, for both students and manpower.
Be open to suggestions. Involve the whole school in important communications and decisions. Representatives from the student body, parents, and alumni who represent various industries bring different viewpoints. Actively solicit their ideas and seek to integrate the best of these ideas into the game plan.
Employ available tools. As an alternative to face-to-face instruction, carry out remote teaching and learning through educational applications and available means, be it online or offline.
Arrange a time for a meeting with people. Schools must strive to meet all stakeholders wherever they are, through email, texts, phone calls, or video calls, to connect with them on a deeper level.
Live up to one’s mission and vision. All schools should aim to teach, and envision to teach well. Both can be achieved when the person who wants to learn is at the heart of every school decision.
Emmanuel M. Batulan is the executive assistant of the Office of the Secretary-General, University of Santo Tomas.
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